Posts Tagged ‘economics’

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Odessa Port Side shuts down

December 30, 2016

Having twice failed to privatise the Odessa Port Side plant during 2016, and with debts mounting to creditors such as Naftogaz, the decision has been taken to temporarily, or perhaps better stated indefinitely, close the plant down with effect from 30th December.

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Valery Gorbatko, the plant Director since 1986 has resigned – which for any eventual buyer or State operational reshuffle/efficiency/transparency policy for the plant is no bad thing.  Accepting that resignation promptly would be a wise move.

From now the cost to the State will be dramatically reduced to those of maintenance and salaries – minor costs in comparison to running the plant with a (currently) low global demand for product and high gas demands to produce it.

It remains an open question as to when or even if a buyer (or long term leaser) will be found for Odessa Port Side.

Some 2017 national budgetary discipline implemented before 2016 has ended?

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Germany’s KfW and Oschadbank Ukraine look to SME financing in 2017

December 24, 2016

State owned KfW Bank of Germany together with State owned Oschadbank Ukraine will apparently target the ever under financed SME market in Ukraine following the signing of a memorandum to do just that via a vehicle called the “German-Ukrainian Fund”.

The “German-Ukraine Fund” is not exactly new.  It has been around since 1998 when it was created by Presidential Decree 574/98.  It’s creation was with the very same intent as the memorandum signed on 24th December 2016, and its structure 31.3% National Bank of Ukraine, Ministry of Finance Ukraine 31.3% and KfW 37.4% appears to be unchanged.

Needless to say that since its creation in 1998, judging by the woeful state of financing for the Ukrainian SME market, the results have been less than spectacular over the past 18 years.

Traditionally Oschadbank is not a bank that has ever had anything to do with the financing of SMEs.  It certainly has experience of financing large scale projects (all plundered naturally), but would not be on any list associated with the financing of SMEs.

Indeed it would be fair to state that Oschadbank has absolutely no experience of SME financing – a banking sector that undoubtedly has its own very specific competencies requiring sector expertise.

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KfW Bank, aside from being able to borrow cheaply due to being 100% owned by the German State, is split into 3 major banking subsidiaries.  Of most relevance to Ukraine is KfW Entwicklungsbank which lends to governments, commercial banks and public enterprises that engage in the microfinancing of SMEs.

It would appear that whatever the EBRD has done behind the scenes to the internal workings of Oschadbank, part of any result is to open up the banking horizons of Oschadbank and attempt to focus them upon what is an SME economic engine historically ignored.  If nothing else it would diversify the loan portfolio of Oschadbank if a significant number of loans actually take place.

(A reader may suspect that both the EBRD and KfW  will have to lend a good deal of experience regarding microfinancing to Oschadbank for the foreseeable future – though that too may be no bad thing in the short-medium term as the internal Oschadbank management develops.)

All in all, some reasonably positive news to (almost) close the year 2016 – particularly for Ukrainian SMEs or SMEs coming to Ukraine.  If 2016 has been a difficult year for Ukraine, 2017 unfortunately does not seem likely to get any better – that the environment Ukraine finds itself within will get worse is more probable.

So it is with this sliver of hope for Ukrainian SMEs and SMEs entering Ukraine in 2017, that the blog wishes all those who celebrate Christmas on 25th December a thoroughly enjoyable day.

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Privat nationalisation and political weight loss

December 19, 2016

Ukraine has eventually taken the decision to nationalise Ihor Kolomoisky’s (and others) Privat Bank.

In some ways it is a surprise that the will to do so was actually found, despite that for more than 2 years everybody and anybody with any knowledge of Privat Bank has hardly been shy in opining that it presented serious risk to the Ukrainian economy and had it not been systemically vital to the Ukrainian banking system it would otherwise have been closed.

To a man/woman, of those spoken to one to one by the blog, be they politicians, economists, diplomats or international bankers, all recognised that the Privat problem had to be addressed and that nationalising it was the better of the options available – if the will could be found to do so.

Lo it has come to pass that 100% of Privat shares are now owned by the State.

How grubby the deal struck between Ihor Kolomoisky and The State is, remains unknown.  For a man like Ihor Kolomoisky to “voluntarily”  “sell” his shares to the State in what has been a significant political and financial lever over the State for him for many years with no gains to him pushes the boundaries of belief.  With the ability to simply put the Ukrainian banking sector into melt down, there is presumably a quid pro quo no matter how small yet favourable that may be in return for the “voluntary” handing over of all shares.

So be it.

Questions will undoubtedly be asked regarding the large amount of PrivatBank loans to its owners (Mr Kolomoisky and friends), other companies with the same owners, and to those associated with the owners, that have consistently been taken out with no intention of repaying them.

What is the exact cash figure these nefarious loans amount to?  What are the chances of those loans now being serviced and eventually repaid by those that took them and who are extremely skilled at historically saddling the State with their debts?

On balance, should a reader accept that those loans will probably not be repaid, thus in assuming these non-performing loans (debts) in however many $ billion they amount to, is that still a price worth paying to insure that PrivatBank can no longer collapse the entire Ukrainian banking system?

Even if agreements have been reached to now begin to repay these loans, the question is then over what period of time (in the unlikely event they will be repaid in full and in the spirit of any agreements made)?

The question presented is therefore one of short term (debt assumption leading probable loses when loans are not repaid) verses the medium/longer term view of what price is put upon insuring the entire national banking system will not collapse due to Prvat?

Financial issues aside, there is of course politics to consider.

The last time the nationalisation of Privat was mentioned by the blog in September, the politics were “Tymoshenko orientated”.  Mrs Tymoshenko is not in favour of the nationalisation of Privat as it doesn’t really work to her advantage.

Ms Tymoshenko aside, broader questions need now be asked about how the nationalisation of Privat changes the political and/or oligarch power dynamics with a major Kolomoisky lever now surrendered.

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Mr Kolomoisky can no longer use Privat as a personal piggy bank.  How does it change his ability to buy parliamentary votes for hire and/or buy entire political parties?  Will it effect any future voting outcomes?  To mitigate, will key voting personnel previously simply bought, now start to appear in Kolomoisky business structures instead for the purpose of leverage over their vote?

In short, just how much political weight loss has been incurred by Mr Kolomoisky – if any?

Without the “ace up the sleeve” of a persistent ability to cause national banking melt down, how does that effect the Kolomoisky position when negotiating how next to screw the State?

How will the rest of the oligarchy class react?  Will they make peace with the State or solidify around a common cause yet further in screwing it over?

How will this effect a poor presidential poll rating if he is perceived to have engineered the right thing for the country, or alternatively is perceived as having used his position to weaken yet another oligarch to his own advantage?  The two are not mutually exclusive, but that is how it will be presented.

Can Mr Kolomoisky now be certain that in what appears prima facie to be a weakened position, he will now not be called to account for innumerable scams and schemes over the years?  Was a de facto arrangement made that in effect grants amnesty via a promise of non-prosecution as part of the deal?  Are there other “compensatory” arrangements reached that will filter into the system over time that will be beneficial to Mr Kolomoisky’s other interests?

The repercussions of this nationalisation financially are on balance likely to be beneficial for Ukraine and the least worst option that could have been taken.  As long as Privat is managed prudently henceforth over the medium term this act is the most sensible option available.  In the long term, it would be wise to eventually return Privat to the private sector – once its systemic and internal risks have been mitigated against.

What is far less clear are the political and oligarchy/power behind the curtain repercussions.  It may be some time before those become fully evident.

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31 candidates to replace Misha Saakashvili as Governor of Odessa. Who’s who?

December 16, 2016

Although most readers will not be particularly interested in the replacement for Misha Saakashvili as Governor of Odessa, having written an occasional  few lines on the subject as potential candidates expressed interest, a full list therefore follows now that candidate applications are closed.

Surprisingly Pavel Zhebrivskyi, the former head of the Donetsk military and civil administration is not listed.  Sadly, for his eccentricity, flamboyance, questionably effeminate nature, and pure entertainment value Garik Korogodski is also absent.

Those successfully registering their candidacy are as follows (and appear in no particular order):

Igor Romanenko, Alexandr Vashenko, Alexandr Ostapenko, Sergei Pomazan, Elizabeth Pyshko-Tsibylyak, Volodymyr Levitskyi, Artem Vaschilenko, Vladislav Grigorchyk, Gennady Chekita, Dmitry Sokolyanskyi, Roman Saromaga, Anatoli Vorohaev, Volodymyr Gavrish, Yulia Melnik, Vasily Horbal, Igor Smirnov, Alexandr Tymoshenko, Valeri Stepanov, Dmitry Spivak, Maxim Berdnik, Oksana Tomchuk, Maxim Stepanov, Alexandr Vinglovskyi, Igor Skosar, Sergei Mazur, Petro Lykyanchuk, Hanna Trifan, Yevgene Chernvonenko and Yuri Chizhmar.

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The most (in)famous among the candidates was the first to throw his hat into the ring, Yevgene Chernovenko – a member of Tymoshenko’s first government and also a former Governor.  A man that if allowed to emerge the winner will have clearly have had to strike a deal with The Bankova to do so as his loyalty to the president is not exactly robust historically.

Gennady Chekita may have no loyalty issues as far as The Bankova is concerned (he is the MP for the Malinovsky district elected under Block Poroshenko and Verkhovna Rada Economics Committee member) but it is questionable if he will to be allowed to emerge the winner as it would mean a by-election for his single mandate seat – which may not go the way of Block Poroshenko.

Another current MP in the Verkhovna Rada is Yuri Chizhmar of the Radical Party – and therefore unlikely to get the tacit nod from The Bankova to emerge as the top candidate for a region as strategic as Odessa (both geographically and by way of large, healthy, illicit money channels).

The current Mayor of Balta, Sergei Mazur is also a candidate.

Also among those holding local governance office previously are former Governor Vasliy Horbal, former Vice-Mayor Anatoly Vorohaev, a former chairman of a Regional State Administration, Volodymyr Gavrish and former City Deputy Dmitry Spivak.  Also former Deputy Governor of Luhansk Elizabeth Pyshko-Tsibylyak.   Last but by no means least from the civil service , former Odessa Deputy Governor and Deputy of the Tax Administration Maxim Stepanov.  Also former Deputy Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Ihor Romanenko is noted for his inclusion, and before leaving matters military, “Cyborg” (Donetsk Airport veteran) Alexandr Tymoshenko also appears.

There are also several candidates from the current Odessa Regional Administration, Sergei Pomazan, Yulia Melnik and Volodymyr Levitskyi.

Of the remaining names of any note (without any research) Chairman of the Ukrainian Business Support Centers (and “widows son”) Artem Vaschilenko then leaves but one.

The last name is Alexandr Ostapenko a former City Deputy and former Deputy Head of the Regional State Administration.  Of all the names, prima facie, Mr Ostapenko is perhaps the individual most easily identified as suited to the methodical, systematic, bureaucratic, boring work associated with the office of a regional governor.

Nevertheless, who ever emerges from the “competition” to replace Misha Saakashvili will be ranked first and foremost by their loyalty to the president.  Any dubious history and their ability to do the job will be of secondary importance.  There is simply no way an oblast like Odessa will be allowed to have a governor that is not loyal to the president first and foremost.

All hats are now thrown in the ring and therefore a reader may perhaps tentatively decide to rank them by way of loyalty to the president, overt party affiliation (if any), and latterly ability, for within that scoring matrix is any real competition for the post.

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The official EU overview of Ukrainian progress 2016

December 13, 2016

A very short entry to bring a reader’s attention to the official EU overview of Ukrainian progress during 2016.

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Predictably the issues where Ukraine invariably fails (and highlighted by the blog) is left to the concluding paragraph.

“Reform in Ukraine is a long-term process looking to bring long-term results. As outlined in this report, many important reforms are ripe to move from the legislative and institutional phase to effective implementation, which will benefit Ukraine’s citizens and contribute further to its political association and economic integration with the EU. Ukrainian civil society and other stakeholders have suggested that the EU and Ukraine should do more to communicate publicly, both in Ukraine and abroad, and explain the rationale for, and benefits of, the reforms undertaken by the government.”

If only the blog had a Dollar for every time the phrase “effective policy” and “effective implementation” had been written during the many years it has been running!

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The IMF says “No” to Ukraine – as long predicted it would

December 1, 2016

The IMF in very plain words has refused Ukraine the next allocated tranche of $1.3 billion.  The February $2 billion tranche naturally gets kicked further into the future.

This should come as no surprise whatsoever.

In February, April, June and most recently (and at length) in October, the blog has repeatedly written (and stated at closed door forums) that IMF cooperation would be indefinitely suspended due to the fact that Ukraine would no longer be desperate for the money and therefore the motivation of parliamentarians and implementing institutions alike would simply disappear – until such time as the situation becomes so acute that they are once again forced to act.

“…….meeting the November 2016 and the $1.3 billion IMF tranche requirements appears optimistic, then meeting the obligations for the scheduled February 2017 tranche of $2 billion is perhaps as remote as riding a unicorn naked through the centre of Kyiv without once being snapped by a smartphone.”

A told you so statement – and the long list of issues in the above-linked October entry remain to be solved as do the repercussions it outlines.

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Though the above entry makes forecast of 2017 IMF related issues, it wisely steers clear of any prophecy regarding a return by Ukrainian to its obligations under the IMF agreement – and thus a return to IMF funding.

It is thus time to be foolish and/or reckless and forecast just how long it will before before the Ukrainian situation becomes once again so dire that parliamentarians and implementing institutions are forced to put their ingrained fecklessness to one side and act with the integrity expected of them – but of which they are consistently absent unless truly without any other options.

Short of something akin to force majeure coming from either The Kremlin or Washington DC dramatically changing the environment within which Ukraine finds itself, there is no urgency to address Ukrainian obligations to the IMF in 2017.

(The only other “incentive” would perhaps be the “Firtashisation” – or privately conveyed possibilities thereof – to powerful and influential Ukrainian figures that nefariously control Verkhovna Rada votes and who have “strayed” within the laws of European nations.)

Certainly nothing approaching obligation compliance will begin before Spring 2017 – the constituency will first be allowed to emerge from a winter under radically increased utility pricing and the application of soothing subsidies – which lends to the ability of the current government and majority coalition to survive the increasingly cacophonous noise relating to early Verkhovna Rada elections.

Realistically (in the current environment) it seems highly unlikely that Ukraine will make any great strides toward getting the IMF agreements back on track until Autumn 2017 at the earliest – if at all in 2017.

Thus predictions for the IMF-Ukraine lending agreement to recommence?

Perhaps 2018.

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A tangled web – The Ukrainian MIC

November 28, 2016

There are many (in)famous Ukrainian politicians, “businessmen” and recognised organised criminals historically associated with gun running and the defence industry/MIC of Ukraine.

In entries past, the names of Semyon Mogilevich, Leonid Minin, Sergei Mikhailov, Leonid Wulf, Alexander Zhukov, Vadim Rabinovych, Leonid Lebedev, Mark Garber, Kuzma Medanich, Andrey Vazhnik, and Anatoliy Fedorenko, are to name but a few “headliners”.

Since those gun running 1990s/2000 decades have passed, in recent years the Ukrainian military and MIC have been forced to undergo radical changes and retooling – nothing spurs such action as a confined yet nevertheless hot war with Russia in the eastern regions.  Also, no longer do trains loaded with armaments sat on rail sidings at Odessa Port go without more than a few photographs and a questions by both public and media alike.

That is not to say that whilst the hollowed out military is by no means hollow anymore, that the endemic corruption that enabled the gun running of the 1990s/00s has been systemically and comprehensively addressed.  Indeed now large lumps of GDP are heading to the military and MIC, and will continue to do so for years to come,  the eyes of the “rent seekers” so attuned to guzzling from the teat of State subsidies and embezzlement of State funds will naturally seek opportunities therein.

So too, it has to be said, will the Kremlin seek to infiltrate further such MIC structures.

Putting the military to one side, the Ukrainian MIC which is still predominantly State rather than private in its composition, will at some point surely be subjected to some form of scrutiny when it comes to the abilities and loyalties of those working within.  With more than 100 State MIC subsidiaries operating under the State Ukrboronprom umbrella there are a lot of managers with access to information that “others” may find “useful” and some skill sets that are clearly not optimal for their roles.

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Ukrboronprom is currently headed by Roman Romanov (a former car dealer who led the presidential election campaign for Petro Poroshenko in Kharkiv).  Beneath him spreads a large organagram of managers across the one hundred plus SOE subsidiaries.  Whether Mr Romanov has been either tasked or is even able to assess the professional competency and patriotic leanings of the management of those companies which collectively form the Ukrainian MIC is unknown.  A “single sweep” would be far from effective if that is all that results anyway.

Among the management of such subsidiaries certain names catch the eye being from Odessa – for example, Alexander Volkov.

Mr Volkov is currently acting head of Promoboroneksport – a subsidiary that has been busy with BMPs in Jordan and MiG 24V helicopters to Uganda throughout 2016.  All appears to have contractually gone well, and thus it seems very likely that Mr Volkov will become the substantive head of Promoborneksport.

Mr Volkov is best known is Odessa as being the long standing regional party chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (united) – or SDPU(u) – and his work at the ports and roads industry.

The SDPU(u) is a party long and closely associated with the nationally loathed Viktor Medvedchuk (Godfather to one of President Putin’s children).

Promoboroneksport is a subsidiary of Ukrspetsexport, which is in turn a subsidiary of Ukrboronprom.

Ukrspetsexport is also headed by a native of Odessa, Pavel Barbul.

Mr Barbul is better understood by his father’s associations.

Alexie Barbul has long been associated with roadworks.  He once headed the roads department at Odessa City Hall, thus not only making him a close acquaintance of Mayor Turkhanov (who is well acquainted with several names listed at the beginning of this entry) but he is also with the company “Growth” (winner of many Odessa tenders) associated with Mayor Trukhanov, the aforementioned Alexander Zhukov, and Odessa’s most (in)famous mafia Don, Alexander (Angel) Angert.  The involvement in road infrastructure also meant that Alexie Barbul was well acquainted with Mr Volkov, who now heads a subsidiary subservient to that Pavel Barbul now controls.

Thus looking at recent, current and future appointments within a clearly tangles web, a reader may come to one of two conclusions – though neither are in fact mutually exclusive.

The first, with names such as Medvedchuk, Trukhanov, Zhukov, Angert nestling behind Messrs Volkov and Barbul, is that the Ukrainian MIC is subtly (or not so subtly) “zoned” – with the Odessa controlled “zone” being that of export, whether or not that export actually leaves from Odessa is irrelevant – this is to do with regional structures of power/influence, and probable sources of hierarchy in rent seeking and embezzlement arrangements.  (A look at the “Kharkiv names” would suggest that the “Kharkiv zone” will be far more production orientated – the same rules applying).

The second conclusion a reader may reach, considering the curriculum vitaes of many of the old names and their associations with organised crime, gun running historically, and with many a very questionable definition of “patriotism”, is that more of the same old schemes may well blight the international headlines in the years hence to the detriment of Ukraine.

A reader may also decide to keep a watchful eye upon the centres of R&D that fall within current university specialised departments.  Would any be surprised to see such centers, boffin brains and facilities included, somehow removed from the university and entirely (yet quietly) privatised, or subjected to a PPP arrangement where the private, rather than the public, in any partnership would seize control and almost all profit – with the Ukrainian taxpayer assuming all investment costs and/or loses?

How clear the horizon for such State-Private initiatives such as UaRpa at the forefront of military tech R&D?  Whose “zone” will it fall into, and when?

A reader may ponder given the direct involvement of several sovereign nations, notwithstanding NATO, in the development of the Ukrainian military and MIC whether they too are viewing managerial appointments within the MIC with the same cynicism as displayed within this entry – or not.  And if not, why not?  They have been active in Ukraine now long enough to spot a bad seed germinating, and currently still have the leverage to nip such dubious, yet increasingly obvious internal structuring in the bud.

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